Neu Perspectives

If Wishes Were Horses

A pretty little bald-faced foal that hit the ground in the early hours, in the chilly still of a dark morning.

It’s not always what we wish it to be.

She was just a foal. A pretty little bald-faced foal that hit the ground in the early hours, in the chilly still of a dark morning. When I saw her stand and try to weakly drink and balance, I had a small feeling deep down that things weren’t quite right. But there was enough hope in my heart and optimistic experience behind me to keep my mind in a good direction.

“Things might turn around as she unfolds, and those legs straighten out,” I thought. And I hesitated to give her a name because it just felt too soon to get attached.

It was supposed to be the magic cross. The hot stallion of the year on my favorite mare. The mare who has given me a stinger of a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old that’s got the right stuff, too. Legs, chrome, speed, disposition, value and cow. But it wasn’t.

We ended up at the vet as she grew weaker and frail. My mare was unsettled and discontent, and my heart sank as I carried her to load her. It could have been great. But it wasn’t.

She could have been mine, but she’s gone.

I know she was probably just a horse. At best, she was a superstar, and more likely, she was just a nice addition to the world. A horse that had a shot but didn’t quite mature at the right time, or had quick enough feet, or maybe lacked a bit of cow to really be great. But to me, when I stood at the breeding barn a year before, looking at her tiny heartbeat on that screen, I had high hopes for what she could have been. What she was to me.

I don’t often cry when I lose a horse. I can’t know why. My heart is far from calloused, but it’s conditioned to the downturns of making this my life. I’ve learned to protect myself a bit when I can’t protect my horses from the hardened world.

I’m sorry, little foal, that I couldn’t keep you going when you got weaker. I rushed you in. We tried our best. I was filled with sorrow and wept over you and your mother in the trailer before they swept you into the hospital to give you their best shot.

I apologized to my mare for failing her and to the vet for my tears. I drove away, knowing that was the end of our story together, that nameless filly and me.

It felt good to share my goodbye in the trailer. It felt good to cry, but it hurts to miss her. The loss is hollow, but the void reminds me of the care and compassion I carry and the sentiments I share with the others who take on the heavy task of raising horses.

I welcomed another filly into the world a few nights later. She was bright-eyed and sharp-eared and seemed to bounce right off the ground onto her four straight legs like an eager jackrabbit. Her mama was both proud and concerned and nickered to her baby. She went right to drinking, just like she was supposed to do.

And you know what’s crazy?
I cried again.

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